Too far? No. Not at all.
Too far? No. Not at all.
Photo by Nicholas L. Hall

Fernet French Toast

So John Kiely beat me to the weird-French-Toast punch with his piece on French Toasted Tortillas, simultaneously making me shake my fist a la Jerry Seinfeld, muttering his name under my breath, and creating what is probably an unhealthy fixation on the idea of French Toast Enchiladas. I'm a life-long lover of pain perdu in all of its many forms, though, so I have absolutely no problem adding to the list of oddball options.

This one was sort of a happy accident, a comedy of errors mixed with a bit of free association, vividly reminding me of playing Telephone in grade school, purple monkey dishwasher. I don't even remember the details, just that some combination of local food blogger/photographer/notable lush Matt Chow, Anvil bartender Matt Tanner, and I read between lines that didn't really exist, culminating in the flash of genius that is Fernet French Toast. Twitter: catalyst for ridiculousness and brilliance in equal measure.

I spent several weeks intending to get around to it, planning to get fancy with a Brioche base, and Maple Chantilly Cream on top. That didn't happen. Between thought and expression lies a lifetime.

What did happen, a couple of weeks ago, was a last minute proof-of-concept breakfast. I didn't write out a recipe or record my process very closely. When I make Fernet French Toast again, which I will, it will likely be different. I just wanted to see if it would be terrible or wonderful; an in-between result seemed somehow unfathomable.

In brief, I combined a few eggs, a splash of milk, a bit of brown sugar, and a dash of flour for a basic French Toast dredge. A few slices of cheap sandwich bread took a turn through a low oven, as my lack of planning found me without actual stale bread on hand. After a few "normal" slices of French Toast hit the griddle (I wasn't sure that Fernet French Toast would either be appropriate for or appreciated by my kids), I added a shot or so of Fernet, whisked it into the batter, and took a step toward (in)fam(e)(y).

As I'd hoped, the Fernet added its unique flavor in subtle ways, bringing a haunting depth of flavor, subtly savory and uniquely sweet, with just a trace of freshening menthol. Even a little bit more would likely have overwhelmed the simple flavor of French Toast; anyone familiar with Fernet knows that it can be pretty aggressive, and nobody wants medicinal French Toast.

Paired with some decent-quality maple syrup, the Fernet somehow made the French Toast taste more like itself, amplifying the underlying flavors while adding a spicy undercurrent and an air of mystery. Now that I've proven the concept, I really do intend to go about this properly. A nice loaf of brioche, thickly cut; some Way Back When Dairy cream, whipped to soft peaks with a bit of maple syrup; maybe a dusting of some appropriate spice blend on top. I foresee a weekend in the near future, the night capped with Fernet, the morning opened with Fernet French Toast.


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